Bill vs Gerry

With great wealth comes great responsibility. The key word I’d use to describe this is ‘legacy’. When entrepreneurs become successful financially, then I think it makes sense to leave a legacy which creates pride beyond money. Often this comes in the form of the business that has been built. A footprint of good stuff the business created – which is the source of the original monetary rewards. Great entrepreneurs go beyond their business and create value for society.

What successful people do after they are financially rewarded is more important than what they did in order to arrive.

So let’s consider the tale of two billionaires. One from Australia and one from the USA. Granted the USA version is much wealthier, but when we are talking billions, I think it matters not.

Billionaire 1 from the USA: Bill Gates. No introduction needed. Gates has made The Giving Pledge to donate over half of his wealth to charity. He has given more than $28 billion to charity and focuses the majority of his efforts fighting poverty and disease in 3rd world countries.

Billionaire 2 from Australia: Gerry Harvey. Retailing magnate known for having strong opinions and doing his own voice overs for his radio and TV advertising. Sure his industry is changing (Just like Microsoft is under siege from web based software platforms) but rather than being happy he’s a billionaire and doing some good, he’s investing his wealth and energy into lobbying the government to change GST tax law thwart his competitive threats.

Despite the fact the GST is not the reason people are taking their shopping on line, Gerry has really lacked the decorum and perspective that should accompany a billionaire. Sure, Bill has had his fair share of questionable tactics in business, but he has never cried poor. In some ways, it makes me embarrassed to be Australian when our business stalwarts are showing such a lack of leadership in society.

I’d be happy to hear your thoughts, but I can’t help but think that it comes down to responsible leadership and legacy. If I’m ever fortunate enough to make one….(a fortune that is)… please remind me of this blog post.


10 Comments Bill vs Gerry

  1. Rob

    Would like to made an addendum to the above piece, following on from all the “Oprah hysteria” that has recently overtaken much of Australia.

    Despite her seemingly goodhearted generosity and motivational inspiration to the underclasses, her effect on her audience and on society in general is far from all rosey.

    It’s not just Australians that are behaving badly.

    The following is excerpted from Brian Dunning at

    Oprah, when you have a giant audience, you have a giant responsibility. Maybe you don’t want such a responsibility, in which case, fine, keep your mouth shut; or limit your performance to jokes or acting or whatever it is you do.

    To her estimated total audience of 100 million, many of whom uncritically accept every word the world’s wealthiest celebrity says, she promotes the paranormal, psychic powers, new age spiritualism, conspiracy theories, quack celebrity diets, past life regression, angels, ghosts, alternative therapies like acupuncture and homeopathy, anti-vaccination, detoxification, vitamin megadosing, and virtually everything that will distract a human being from making useful progress and informed decisions in life. Although much of what she promotes is not directly harmful, she offers no distinction between the two, leaving the gullible public increasingly and incrementally injured with virtually every episode.

    What she does is promote anything that’s sensational, and that’s how she gained the attention of one of the world’s largest viewing audiences. Her show and magazine promote anything that shocks, surprises, or titillates us. That’s her only criteria. Probably 80 or 90 percent of it is true and perfectly harmless, but that remaining 10 or 20 percent is given equal credibility by viewers who have no reason to suspect their trusted hostess has not done good research. Oprah doesn’t care what she tells them; only that they keep watching.

    As a direct result of Oprah Winfrey’s shockingly unethical rise to riches, many people believe in unscientific alternatives to healthcare, ghosts, psychics, sham health products, and other magical beliefs. The real extent of the damage she’s done to the world’s collective intellect is probably greater than that done by anyone else in history.

  2. Steve Sammartino

    That’s a really interesting viewpoint on Oprah… one that I can only respond with as Scary!

    My concern with Oprah until now has just been limited to her overt promotion of Consumption = happiness with her car and Plasma TV giveaways.


  3. Rob

    BTW, didn’t mean to hijack the topic here to Oprah. Steve, excellent piece; agree with your comments on Bill vs. Jerry. One of the hallmarks of ‘lost-the-plot’ thinking is when any individual or organisation turns to the government for legislation to protect them from the consequences of their own previous bad behaviours. Just look at the reader comments on the SMH articles to get a sense of the vitriol that was unleashed.

  4. Sam

    Don’t think anyone can say what Gerry’s ultimate motivation is but the flip side is that maybe he is fighting for the Aussie Battler… The many franchisee’s that devote their time and energy to his business model. I know if I had that many people committed to my business model, I’d be fighting tooth and nail to ensure they get a fair playing field in the market. And no matter what the ultimate motivation is for buying online, the fact remains, no GST applies on goods less than $1,000, while the same product purchased within Australia, does include it. It’s a tax that’s broken.

  5. Steve Sammartino

    You raise some good points, especially about the franchisees.

    In relation to overseas transactions & GST I think that it’s impossible to regulate for equality in tax on global markets… there are probably similar issues on the other side of the ocean in certain instances. I think what we will see is price equalization due to the forces of arbitrage.


  6. Pingback: Talking with Billionaires « homelessstartup

  7. onealbumaday

    If Gerry Harvey cared about “Aussie battlers” (what ever that term really means beyond racists from the Western Suburbs of Sydney that John Howard bent over backwards to scare witless about migrants, crime, homosexuals and the intellectuals), he wouldn’t be shafting them regularly with higher purchase agreements that look amazing on paper (interest free for 3 years), but have a mighty whacking interest rate for the tardy (>30%p.a. in many instances).

    As for his franchisees, I’d urge you to have a look at how those relationships work too, as most are run with no scope to enforce the agreement (i.e. Harvey Norman can withdraw them at any time)…

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